Thursday, April 7, 2011

How to Make It in Bellydance...or Not.

So last week's post was about spreading a little love around.  I had thought about making this week's post being a direct contrast in the "when is it OK to not spread the love around" sort of vibe.  To be clear, I wasn't professing that you need to love every dancer out there, because seriously there are some bat-shit crazy (BSC) people out there. In fact, I had gone so far to officially designate 2010 my "guano-free" year, meaning eliminating the BSC people out of my life, and it's become somewhat of an institution now since it cut out a huge amount of unnecessary stress.  I'm a pretty easy-going person with the gift/curse of being able to reason/understand other people's issues, so I can put up with a lot.  A LOT.

But there are some things in this community we shouldn't be putting up with.  And one thing in particularly I've seen far too much of recently all over the dance community is bullying (for lack of a better word).  Essentially what I'm talking about is aggressive/abusive behavior used to get one's way.  I hate to use the term "bullying" here because it tends to conjure up ideas of grammar school playground teasing (not to belittle that type of abuse at all, because it is a rather serious problem), and what we're dealing with are full-grown adults engaging in extremely negative behavior to achieve their desired results.  Whether it's hate mail (email, letters, phone messages, or texts) sent directly to the individual, or communication targeted at other people/organizations/events who may know them/be involved with them, physical and destructive actions or threats, the aggressor is using negativity to push people to do what she wants, often on a very public scale.  Often the aggressor will also recruit sympathizers, who furthermore add to the waves of negativity, most often because they don't know the whole story or want to win favor.  She fears losing power and control, and will do what she can to retain it, rarely thinking about what is best for others.

In most cases, the aggressor feels that she has been wronged in some way (and hence considers herself a victim), and that justifies her extreme behavior.  The "wrong" could be a new competitor in town (dancer or event), someone voicing an opinion she didn't like or exposing a truth about the aggressor, or someone refusing to follow or agree to her terms/desires.  Rather than considering her own role or possible responsibility in the situation, OR evaluating how one can rationally and positively improve or correct the situation, the aggressor turns to vocal violence to attempt to get resolution/satisfaction.

In fact, most of the situations I've encountered exemplify the bully-as-a-victim scenario, to the extreme where the bully has manufactured or falsely claimed similar behavior against her to get attention.  Sometimes, they start off having a real offense/problem, but then things get out of control, and all of a sudden, it's the Salem Witch Trials all over again. But most often the "wrong" is a difference of opinion or a misunderstanding of fact, rather than anyone intentionally trying to cause the aggressor harm. The truth is, most actual victims of bullying rarely speak out/up, nor are they likely to engage in this sort of behavior as a means of justification.  They just want the abuse to go away, so they give-in, give-up, or go away.  And the bully knows this, hence why it's her chosen weapon to get what she wants, whether it's attention to exalt herself, to make a competitor go away or lose money, damage someone else's reputation, or just ride a power trip of ego. 

And most likely, you're sitting there reading this post thinking "That's crazy! Outrageous! How can anyone do that or let someone behave like that!? Real professionals wouldn't do that, must be inexperienced dancers!" or you're nodding along with several different encounters in mind. The sad truth is, most of the situations I can recall involved senior-level dancers (aka "professionals" and experienced, established individuals), whose behavior was excused because "well, that's just who she is and besides, she's a fabulous dancer/teacher/promoter/etc."  Why is that OK?  Why are we accepting this harmful behavior as the norm? Do we truly benefit from keeping them in business?  Are we really helping them by ignoring it?  Are we saying that these people are just talented animals who can't learn to behave better?

Now, we all go through tough times and don't always behave as well as we should, and if we can recognize and acknowledge those bad times and lack of good judgment, then forgiveness is definitely a viable option.  But when someone is a repeat offender without any sense of self-exploration, then shame on us for continuing to support them, because they will never learn, and they only continue on their cycle of negativity.  And people think it's OK, as long as it's not happening to them personally.  Which is a fault-ridden position, because really, it's only a matter of time until she fixes her gaze on YOU or someone you care about.  Folks, it's not that big of a community.  How many wolves do we need? Do we even NEED wolves?

How do we eliminate this sort of negativity from our community?  The first thing is to check ourselves, and make sure we're not the ones propagating it.  Yes, we should all stand up for ourselves, our dance, our business, but HOW we do that is key.  You can work to solve problems in a positive manner, keeping cool (or counting/breathing) when faced with issues that set us off, and not fly off the cuff.  You can choose not to spread rumors or hearsay and not blindly accept everything you may hear as truth.  Open up the lines of positive communication by asking questions, clearing up misunderstandings, and clarifying where there is confusion.  Instead of blaming someone else for a problem, consider what your own role in it was or could be, and help works toward a solution.  If you need to discuss a problem, then seek advice from a few trusted, impartial sources, not everyone with an ear within 10 feet of you.  If you did something or someone wrong, acknowledge it, apologize, and make amends.  If someone makes an apology to you, accept it and move on.  Vote with your feet and your wallet. We can also choose NOT to support people who breed negativity with their drama and abuse. Support the talent who do walk the positive path. There are other options out there, trust me. Make bellydance a bully-free zone. 

24 comments:

  1. Excellent article. I've heard the excuse about how someone has done so much for the community, but in my mind, that doesn't excuse bad behaviors.

    I hope most, if not all, members of the dance community read this.

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  2. Thanks for this. It is well written and thought out. I have had to deal with a bully for 8 years now and it is truly frustrating. AND thanks for coming to Moab..it was awesome!

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  3. This stuff needs to be read. By anyone who claims to be a performer of any kind.

    The sad part is: I felt that by intentionally eliminating the guano from my cave. That it felt, well, a bit empty. (or at least in the beginning)
    On the upside to that, I am finding more and more quality dancers who feel the same way, coming around.
    I guess it balances out

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  4. This is so on and sadly too often what happens in the community. Thanks for writing this!

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  5. It's a sad but true thing. Along the theme of the playground bully, just because some of us are playing four square and some of us are playing basketball, we should all be able to play together on the same playground.

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  6. Wow this really hit me deep
    somehow your words found your way to me
    im so thankful
    i really needed to hear this
    peace

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  7. Wise words. And really, is someone really giving that much back to the community if the vast majority of what they're giving is an earful to anyone unlucky enough to cross them?

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  8. Wonderful post! Thank you Tempest. :)

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  9. This type of bullying is why I stopped dancing. I have slowly started back to dancing but it is hard to avoid events that these people are at.

    Thank you for posting this article.

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  10. We are treated as we allow people to treat us. If someone 'has something' we want (whatever that might be), our sensibilities can be distorted. I'm reminded of the Woody Allen joke (paraphrased): A man goes to see a psychiatrist and says, "Doctor, my brother thinks he's a chicken!" The Dr. replies,
    "you should bring him in to the hospital for treatment". The man says, "I can't do that, Doctor". The doctor asks why - and the man responds, "Because I need the eggs."
    Peace,
    Jawhara

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  11. You're so on point. I'm now at the point where other dancers are starting to invite me to their events (yay!--more experience), and a few experienced dancers have warned me to be prepared for the backbiting and bullying you've described so eloquently. Each one, however, urged me to take dancers as I find them, and be open to the possibility that her experience with Dancer X might be much different than mine.

    Thanks to you, and those kind dancers, I feel much more emotionally prepared to grow and enjoy what I'm doing without letting the negativity affect me as much. Maybe we can start a quiet revolution in our own little corners of the scene!

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  12. Thank you for a poignant and beautifully written article. And I love your title "Creative Nuisance". Brilliant.

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  13. I am saddened that the performance community continues to be sullied by the widespread existence of bullies, as you say. The behavior seems to come from a desperate desire for control or popularity—the urge to be right, first, favorite, best, youngest or prettiest, or to possess the most. I have seen so many clinging to their histories, their cameras, their clothing lines, their studios, their clientele, their street corners, their venues, their invitations, their special engagements and elite private parties, trying to own what is not to be possessed. The people we are talking about will make no apologies, will not admit making mistakes (so unfortunately will not be able to learn from them), will not be thanking, or sharing leadership nor recognition. I have had to be brave and walk away from several situations, and as just as Fajeradanse said, it can be lonely. It can be really, really painful. My patience and perseverance have helped. The best choice for me has been to seek peace wherever I can find it or create it. Thank you for posting this, because in a small way you are disarming the bullies and giving permission to make them stop.

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  15. Thanks for having written this, Tempest! I feel like you read my own thoughts and feelings. I'm not really "deep inside" the world dance community, but I'm a dance altruist. As soon as I started struggling in my country in order to raise this beautiful art of tribal bellydance, I got this feeling of being bothered a lot of times (by the many ways you just refered!).

    Now, that I just moved out my own country, I get "love" from people I don't even personally know.

    I think "fear" is what makes people react like this. And I have to add the word "overambitious" to this!

    But as miss_lila_ma said: "Maybe we can start a quiet revolution in our own little corners of the scene!" - I have already started! ;)

    Hugs from Santiago and keep it up!

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  16. I started to write a blog about Bullying this morning, but I got distracted, so its interesting that this is in the air! Thanks! A lot of artists I know have been experiencing some bullying from clients recently and its pretty disturbing.

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  17. You said it all .. and Brazil is no different. Tired of this kind of situation, I got away from some people off ... there was the following speech:
    - Who does she think she is? Do not mix!
    I'm much better away from the fallacy, and amaze ... today have much more stage work than before and ... Kisses! Lililililiiiiiiiiii

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  18. Great post, Tempest. Well done, and thank you!

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  20. OMG I STILL so love this article.

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  21. Beautiful and well written! Thank you for having the courage to put out there what many shy away from.

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  22. Very Good Article, Thank you for writing this, I was about to post about this same thing, but I could not have said it better, I have dealt with this in my community, but I behaved not so good, I apologized to the community for my behavior,though some took it and some did not. I have learned from it however, but nothing any person says or does would ever stop me from dancing since I also know thats what they would want. Thank you again for this post ^_^

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